The heavy dew glistened across the division parade as the sun began to rise toward midday. A gentle, cool breeze swept across our cheeks toward the back of the field beyond the displayed helicopters, Humvees and tanks. Under the 101st Screaming Eagle Banner, stood Soldiers, accompanied by their leaders, aligned shoulder-to-shoulder, in formation, waiting for the command to move forward in unison.
This was the setting of my unique honor and experience as I observed the 101st Airborne Division review during Week of the Eagles. From the sounds of the marching band, cannons roaring echoes of thunder to flags waving in the wind, it was breathtaking.
The view of our beloved Soldiers – men and women – standing at attention during the review and marching in cadence past the reviewing stands was inspiring.
What moved me the most was being afforded the opportunity to observe a company safety brief that was given at the end of the week. The safety brief was for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and centered on a number of topics, all pertaining to Soldier safety.
The safety topics covered not only on-post issues, but off post as well. Some of the topics that were emphatically stressed included:
Alcohol: The Soldiers were instructed about underage drinking. This is not allowed either on or off post. Those of legal age who consume alcohol are to drink responsibly and not to drive if they have had more than the legal limit. They were reminded that if drinking causes them to be belligerent, then they should not drink at all. Soldiers were advised to take along a battle buddy to make sure they stay on the right track. If they have a problem with alcohol, they are to seek help and assistance from the company commander, first sergeant or noncommissioned officers. They were informed that there are support programs available to help them with this addiction.
Homelife: It was emphasized that if there is abuse, marital strife, or both, that the Army provides support from counseling to more intensive programs. The Soldiers were continually told that if they have a problem with this to immediately seek help and assistance from a fellow Soldier, first-line supervisors, commander or first sergeant.
Positive choices: This was continually repeated throughout the safety brief. The importance of using your head to think out a positive solution before a situation is created and to not rely on emotions but facts.
Boat safety: Reminders were given about the importance of not excessively consuming alcohol while boating, knowing and following the rules of navigation, and wearing a life vest at all times.
Situation assistance: The commander and first sergeant informed the Soldiers that whenever they are involved in a negative situation, to call them anytime and assistance will be on the way. They even gave the Soldiers their cellphone numbers.
As a parent of a Soldier, the contents of this briefing made me extremely proud of the Army. They have taken huge strides to ensure that our sons and daughters are safe, not only when they are in their hands, but also when out in public.
This umbrella of safety should put at bay some of the concern of parents, and hopefully answer some questions as well. My personal thanks go out to all of the officers and sergeants who make the safety of our loved ones a priority.
Daniel J. Paul is the father of a 101st Abn. Div. Soldier and a recently retired school administrator with a 39 1/2-year career in public school education and administration. His columns appear in numerous newspapers in the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigana and northeastern Wisconsin. His focus is on education, old-fashioned Family values and relationships. Visit his website meaningfuldifferences.net that features archived columns, and to leave feedback.